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Before yesterdayStories by Chris Hernandez on Medium

Patch diffing CVE-2022–21907

Our security team does an in-depth analysis of critical security vulnerabilities when they are released on patch Tuesday. This patch Tuesday one interesting bug caught our eye. CVE-2022–21907 HTTP Protocol Stack Remote Code Execution Vulnerability, reading through the description words like critical, wormable, etc caught my interest. So we began with a differential analysis of the patch. FYI this story will be updated as I progress with static and dynamic analysis, some assumptions on root cause will most likely be wrong and will be updated as progress is made.

After backing up the December version of http.sys I installed the patch on an analysis machine and performed a differential analysis using IDA pro and BinDiff. There were only a few updated function names in the patched binary.

Only a few changed functions

The updated functions in the binary are UlFastSendHttpResponse with roughly 10% changed across the patch (that's a lot), UlpAllocateFastTracker UlpFastSendCompleteWorker UlpFreeFastTracker and UlAllocateFastTrackerToLookaside. Just reviewing the naming convention of the functions makes me think “use after free” due to the functions handling some sort of allocations, and free’s namely UlpAllocate* and UlpFreeFastTracker. The naming convention makes me think these functions are allocating and freeing chunks of memory.

Without any particular approach to targeting patched functions, let's begin with a review of the basic blocks in UlpFreeFastTracker.

UlpFreeFastTracker Unpatched (on the left) And patched on the right

We can see in UlpFreeFastTracker after returning from a call into UlDestroyLogDataBuffer the unpatched function does nothing before jumping to the next basic block. The patched function on the right ANDs the values in [rbx+0xb0] with 0. Not entirely sure of the reasoning behind that but runtime debugging or further reversing of UlpFreeFastTracker may help.

Another interesting function with a number of changes is UlPAllocateFastTracker. In the patched version, there are a number of changed basic blocks. Changes that stand out are the multiple calls to memset in order to zero out memory. This is one way to squash memory corruption bugs, so our theory is looking good.

memset is added

memset is called again on another basic block before a call to UxDuoIniutializeCollection. UxDuoInitializeCollection is also setting memory to 0 memset at an arbitrary size of 138 bytes. This is unchanged from the previous version so probably not the issue.

additional memset of 0

What is interesting about the first memset in this function is it's an arbitrary size and not a dynamic size. Maybe this is trying to fix something? However, since it's not a dynamic size, maybe there is still space for use after free in other size chunks? or maybe all chunks in this bug are a static size. Just a theory at this point.

memset 0 on 290 byte buffer at rax

Proceeding to the function with the most changes UlFastSendHttpResponse this function is by far more complex than the others. I miss those patch diffing examples with 3 lines of assembly code.

Looking at all of the changes in UlFastSendHttpResponse was a little complex and I’m still trying to understand what it does. However, we can see that the code from UlFastSendHttpResponse does reach UlpFreeFastTracker

There is a call to UlpFreeFastTracker from UlfastSendHttpResponse

Further analysis reveals that there is also a call into UlpAllocateFastTracker.

Direct path into UlpAllocateFastTracker

At this point, a safe assumption may be that the vulnerable code path is hit first in UlFastSendHttpResponse and some of the fixup / mitigations were applied to memory chunks in the other functions. We need to know how to reach the UlFastSendHttpResponse. The only insight that Microsoft gives us is that registry-based mitigations will disable trailer support.


The enableTrailerSupport registry key should be set to 0 to mitigate the risk, or in our case, it should be enabled and we can check code paths that are hit when we make web requests that include a trailer parameter.

Trailers are defined in RFC7230, more details here

Update as of 1/13/22

The next step would be to make requests that include the trailer parameter and record code paths/code coverage and see if it's possible to get close to the patched code with relative ease. For those that are following along the approach, I plan to take is to fuzz HTTP requests with chunked transfer encoding. I’ll post the results back here but an example to use to start building a corpus would look like this

In the meantime, another researcher on attackerkb shared the text of a kernel bugcheck after a crash. The bugcheck states that a stack overflow was potentially detected in UlFreeUnknownCodingList. Below is the path that the patched function UlFastSendHTTPResponse can take to reach UlFreeUnknownCodingList via UlpFreeHttpRequest. It seems as if we are on the right path.

This looks promising

Update 1/19/22

I had some issues with my target VM patching itself (thanks Microsoft) I’ve reinstalled a fresh windows 10 install and I’m currently fuzzing HTTP chunked requests with Radamsa. I’ll post the sample here when I trigger a crash.

Update 1/20/22

There’s been some confusion lately, a few other researchers have posted exploits related to CVE-2021–31666 and not affecting patched (December) versions of Windows 10 21H2 and 1809 at least. I haven’t seen a single exploit that targets the Transfer-Encoding & chunked requests as specified in the CVE. However, it does appear that those call stacks and bugs are closely related in the code of http.sys. The close-in-nature relation may be the cause of the confusion. I’d recommend reading for details on that bug. It’s also possible to validate that this bug is different due to the fact that the December vs January patch of http.sys does not include any changes to the vulnerable code path in cve-2021–3166. For cve-2021–3166 affected functions are UlAcceptEncodingHeaderHandler, UlpParseAcceptEncoding, and UlpParseContentCoding respectively.

Root cause analysis on unusual stack writing functions with IDA.

A common problem when doing vulnerability research and exploit development is identifying interesting components within binary code. Static analysis is an effective way to identify interesting functions to target. This approach can be quite involved if the binary is lacking symbols, or if source code is not available. However, even in some instances source code or symbols not being available won't hinder your research entirely.

In this example, we’ve identified an application we want to target for pre-auth vulnerabilities. When we attempt to log in with a username but no password we receive the error “Password is missing”

Nope, it's not that easy

Within IDA Pro we can use the search capability to find references to the string “password is missing.” The first result in sub_426b20 is a good candidate.

This looks promising

Navigating to that function and doing a bit of brief analysis on the basic blocks helps us determine that it is an interesting part of an HTTP server that handles authentication.

Main basic block for this function

Once we’ve identified our target functions we can set a breakpoint on the first basic block and attach to the process using one of IDA’s built-in debuggers. After making a request to the login function we can see that our breakpoint has been hit and the webserver is paused. This is promising because it means our code path is correct.

Enabling function tracing after our breakpoint is hit.

After hitting a breakpoint we can enable a function trace, this will record all functions our binary is calling when we continue the debugger. After attempting and failing login we can see only a few functions are hit, and our sub_46B20 is in the list. Great!

Only a few functions have been traced, this will save us time

Running through the login function again, this time with a noticeable username of “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” we can see that the username is placed on the stack. Not good from a binary defense perspective.

Also unusual is that there are no typical culprits when auditing for vulnerabilities, i.e. there is no strcpy function being called. However the call to [email protected]_ConfigObj is present right before our username appears on the stack.

Further tracing of the execution environment leads us to find the offending instructions in libpal.dll

our offending stack writing gadget

The code in libpal.dll does the following:

  • copy {ecx} to eax register (one byte copy)
  • Increment the ecx register (iterating over our input bytes)
  • move eax into [edx] (this is our destination (the stack))
  • test al,al will continue until a null byte is tested.

What is interesting about that behavior is that it is essentially identical to strcpy without being initially detectable as a strcpy function. Hence initial scans for banned functions wouldn’t have detected the issue.

We’ll find strcpy anyway, deal with it

In summary we’ve done root cause analysis on why a particular called function writes to the stack and allows for a stack based buffer overflow when it’s not immediately apparent that a buffer overflow should happen.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Purple Teams

As we are approaching the new year I've been thinking about the milestones and achievements that I’ve been able to accomplish both personally and professionally. 2021 was a year of many challenges and many opportunities. Usually, when I am going through a particularly challenging period I look for a resource that can help to remind me of what it’s like to live a life according to the principles that I value. One such book is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people and another is Nonviolent Communication. Each one has its own strengths and applications. In this article, I’ll focus on how the 7 habits can map quite well to building and running effective Purple teams.

Habit 1: Be Proactive with Security Testing:

In the cybersecurity space, there are a lot of happenings that are outside of your team's control. What you do have control over is how you test the security tools and controls that you do have at your disposal. In Habit 1, instead of saying “I can’t detect APTs because I don’t have a multi-million dollar security stack defending everything in my environment.” Instead, we start with, a question like “What known or documented TTP can we test in our environment?” and theorize on what we may see, or what we may miss. Finally, in Habit 1, we are focusing on proactively identifying visibility gaps before a serious incident happens, and working collaboratively with other teams to address those gaps where appropriate.

Habit 2: “Begin with the end state of your security operations team in mind”

With respect to Habit 2, it’s important for all members of your Purple team to have in their mind a vision of what they want the team's capabilities to look like in the future, both individually and collectively. Each individual can think about what you can do to get closer to that final state one year, quarter, or month at a time. Personally, and for the Purple team at Code42, Habit 2 is also an important area to consider the values of your team and the individuals. Habit 2 goes beyond just “stopping the bad hackers” and asks you to reflect on how you want your own actions and the actions of your team to make an impact. Personally, I have a lot of respect for organizations that make meaningful contributions to the security community by releasing frameworks or powerful tools which contribute to making security better for many organizations. Another useful thought exercise with respect to this habit is taking time for self-reflection and asking if what you are doing now, and what you are working towards is something you will be proud of based only on your personal values and not what society deems as “valuable”.

Habit 3: Put critical incidents first

Habit 3 is one that I struggle with in some manner, the easy thing for me is to do what is important and urgent. The recent log4j issue is a great example. If you have something that is urgent (a new 0 day) it's easy to drop everything else and prioritize that which is urgent and important. However, what I struggle with is dealing with quadrant II activities which are important but not urgent. When I was in high school and college I’d procrastinate on assignments until I had really no other option but to do the assignment. The reality is in those cases those quadrant II activities had moved to quadrant I and then they got done. In some cases, it's impractical for Quadrant II activities to go on unplanned for so long, yes I’ve even completely forgotten a few Quadrant II activities from time to time. On our Purple team, we have a queue of planned test scenarios mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK framework to run through. While this work is important but not urgent, it can be the difference between an adversary being detected and removed from your environment and an adversary persisting in your environment! So planning and executing those quadrant II activities is critical to the long-term success of a Purple team program.

Our workstations in full purple team mode: image credit Bryn Felton-Pitt

Habit 4: Purple thinks win-win!

I think Habit 4 is the epitome of what a Purple team is intended to achieve. The idea behind win-win for a Purple team is of a team that is mutually invested in making the other side better. For instance, the red team finds a new attack method that goes undetected by the blue team. In an effective Purple team, the red team will be excited to share the results of these findings with the blue team. They are motivated by improving the organization's detection and response capabilities. Contrast this with an ineffective team where the red team doesn’t feel a shared goal or common purpose with the blue team. In that case, the Red team may feel incentivized to hoard vulnerabilities and detection bypass techniques without sharing them with the blue team until they’ve been thoroughly abused. This makes improvement take much longer. A contrasting example may be that the blue team has identified a TTP or behavior that gives them reliable detection of the red team's C2 agents. If the blue team feels that their goal is to “catch the red team” they may not want to disclose that known TTP with the red team. Sometimes the win-win mentality is broken unintentionally by artificial incentives. One such example is tying the blue team's financial bonus to detection of red team activities… don’t do that as it puts blue teamers in a position where they may have to sacrifice a financial reward in order to work collaboratively with the red team. I don’t know many people who would do a better job if it meant they lost money.

In summary, the focus of Habit 4 is to create a structure where each blue team and red team member has a shared incentive to see the other team succeed.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand the methods of the other team

In Habit 5 we are seeking to understand the pain points of the red team and blue team. We do this at Code42 by rotating team members into offensive and defensive roles on a regular cadence. When you are truly in someone else's shoes you can understand the challenges that they deal with on a daily basis. Adversaries often have to deal with collecting credentials, privilege escalation, and lateral movement. Waiting for callbacks and losing C2 can slow, or even eliminate their offensive capabilities. Defenders on the other hand have to deal with alert fatigue, looking through too much data, and the dread of “missing” some kind of adversary activity via a visibility gap. When each side understands the other’s pain points they can be much more effective at disrupting the attacker lifecycle, or the incident response lifecycle.

Habit 6: Together is better

Here is where the Purple team shines: each person has a unique background and perspective. If we are able to work together and approach defending our networks with a humble mentality we can learn from each other faster. Personally, I find it very rewarding when individuals have shared with me that they feel safe to ask questions about a technique, or technology. I’ve personally worked in places where that safety net isn’t there, and progress is slower. The key difference is a team that feels safe, is a team that can progress quite rapidly by learning from each other's strengths. Create an environment where it is safe to say, “I don't know”, and you will create an environment that frees itself to tap the knowledge of every individual on the team.

Habit 7: Renewal and Growth

I know after log4j we could all definitely use some renewal and restoration. Cybersecurity incidents can be a lot of work and they can be quite draining sometimes. Habit 7 is a challenge for me, I’m naturally driven and want to learn new things all the time. This is lucky because the cybersecurity landscape is ever-changing. Attacks and security implications of new technology are always evolving. One approach that is supportive to Habit 7 might be something like 20% time where anyone can choose a new and interesting topic that they want to research. That method can support each individual's need for growth. Having initiatives that support each individual’s well-being is an important component of a healthy team. At Code42 we did have in-person yoga classes (now remote), this can be challenging but don't forget to remind your team to take breaks during incidents, stretch, give their family or pets a hug, and be open to comping your team additional PTO if they work long days and weekends during an incident.

In closing, there are lots of ways where a Purple team model for cybersecurity operations supports the growth and development of a healthy and exceptional team. I hope some of these habits have sparked a desire to try a Purple team exercise in your organization.

CVE-2021–3310 Western Digital MyCloud PR4100 Link Resolution Information Disclosure Vulnerability

Pwn2own is something like the “academy awards” for exploits and like any good actor… or in this case hacker I dreamt of my chance on the red carpet... or something like that. I had previously made an attempt at gaining code execution for Pwn2own Miami and ended up finding some of the bugs that were used in the incite team's exploit of the Rockwell Studio 5000 logic designer. However, I couldn’t follow the path to full RCE. The incite team's use or abuse of XXE was pretty mind-bending!

So I patiently waited for the next event… finally, Pwn2own Tokyo 2020 was announced. I wanted another shot at the event so when the targets were released I wanted to focus on something practical and possible for me to exploit. I picked the Western Digital My Cloud Pro Series PR4100 device because I needed a NAS for my home network, it had lots of storage and was x86 based. Therefore if I needed to work on any binary exploitation I wouldn’t be completely lost.

Now that my target was chosen I needed to find a way to gain root access to the device.

NAS devices represent interesting targets because of the data that they hold, backups, photos, and other sensitive information. A brief review of previous CVEs affecting the Western Digital My Cloud lineup highlighted the fact that this device is already a target for security researchers and exploitation, as such, some of the low-hanging fruit had already been picked off. This included previous unauthenticated RCE vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, let's dive into the vulnerabilities that were chained together to achieve root-level access to the device.

The Vulnerabilities

AFP and SMB Default share permissions

Out of the box, the My Cloud ships with AFP and SMB file sharing enabled and 3 public file shares enabled. The web configuration states that public shares are only enabled when one or more accounts are created, however by default there is always an administrator account, so these shares are always enabled.

Default Share permissions

Diving into the share configuration we can see that for SMB guest access is enabled under the “nobody” account, thus requiring no authentication to access the shares. Since we have access to the share as “nobody”, we can read files, and create new files, provided the path gives us those permissions. We already have limited read and write primitives, awesome!

SMB.conf settings

Similarly, in the AFP configuration we can see that the “nobody” user is a valid user with permissions to the Public share Figure 3 Netatalk / AFP configuration.

AFP Configuration

Accessing the default folders doesn’t do us much good unless we can navigate the rest of the filesystem or store a web shell there. Digging deeper in the SMB configuration we find that following symlinks and wide links is enabled.

Symlinks enabled

We now have a vector by which to expose the rest of the filesystem. Let’s create some arbitrary symlinks to follow. After creating both symlinks to /etc/ and /temp/ we see something interesting. Apparently, the security configuration for /etc/shadow is overly permissive, and we can read the /etc/shadow file as a non-root user. #winning!

Access to the overly permissive shadow file readable by “nobody”

We can confirm this is the case by listing the permissions on the filesystem

insecure shadow file permissions

Typically, shadow files are readable only by the root user, with the permissions -rw-r — — such as in the example below

proper shadow file permissions

While its certainly impactful to gain access to a shadow file, we’d have to spend quite a bit of time trying to crack the password, even then it may not be successful. That’s not enough for us to get interactive access immediately (which is what pwn2own requires). We need to find a way to gain direct access to an admin session…

While navigating the /tmp directory via a symlink we can spot that the apache/php session path is thedefault “” which evaluates to the /tmp directory on Linux systems. We can validate that by checking the PHP configuration.

php default configuration / save path

Now we have a way to access the PHP session files, however, we can see that the file is owned by root and is ironically more secure than the /etc/shadow file. However, since the naming convention for the session file is still at its default and the sessions are not obfuscated in any way, the only important value is the filename which we can still read via our read primitive!

“secured” session file

Once we have leaked a valid session ID we can submit that to the website and see if we can get logged in.

Sending our request with the leaked cookie

After sending our request we find that the admin user is not logged in! We failed one final security check and that was for an XSRF token which the server generates after successful authentication. Since we aren’t authenticating the server doesn’t provide us with the token. Since most of the previous exploit attempts were directly against the web application several security checks have been implemented, the majority of PHP files on the webserver load login_checker.php which runs several security checks. Here the code for csrf_token_check() is displayed.

csrf_token_check with one fatal flaw

Reading the code, it appears that the check makes sure that WD-CSRF-TOKEN and X-CSRF-Token exist and are not empty. Finally, the check passes if $token_in_cookie equals token_in_header. This means all we must do is provide an arbitrary value and we can bypass the CSRF check!

The final attack then is to submit a request to the webserver to enable SSH with an arbitrary password. The URI at which we can do that is /cgi-bin/system_mgr.cgi

exploit attempt with leaked session token and CSRF bypass
The fruits of our labor, a root shell!

The Exploit

The techniques used in this exploit are intended to chain together several logical bugs with the PHP CSRF check bypass. The steps involved in this exploit are as follows.

1. Mount an AFP share on the target NAS’ Public directory

2. Mount an SMB share on the target NAS’ Public directory

3. Using the local AFP share create a symlink to /tmp in the directory

4. Navigate to the /public/tmp directory on the SMB share

5. Read a session ID value from the share (if an admins session token is still valid)

6. Use the session id in a web request to system_mgr.cgi to enable SSH access to the device with an arbitrary root password.

7. Leverage the CSRF bypass in the web request and use an arbitrary X-CSRF-Token and WD-CSRFToken values

The final result

What's the shelf life of an 0-day? Vulnerabilities are inherently a race condition between researchers and vendors, where bugs may get squashed intentionally, or unintentionally due to vendor patches, or it being discovered and disclosed by another researcher. In the case of this bug, the vendor released a patch 2 weeks before the competition, and the changes to the PHP code, validation of sessions, as well as updating PHP version squashed my exploit chain. I was still able to leverage the NFS / SMB bug to trigger a DOS condition due to a binary reading arbitrary files from an untrusted path. However, my RCE chain was gone and I couldn’t find another one in time for the event. Upon disclosing all of the details to ZDI they still decided to acquire the research even without RCE on the newest full release version of MyCloud OS. During the event, I enjoyed watching all of the other researchers submit their exploit attempts and I enjoyed the process of working with ZDI to get to acquisition and ultimately disclosure of the bugs. I’ll be back for a future pwn2own!

Finally, if you’d like to check out the exploit, my code is available on github.

Death By a Thousand Papercuts

Patch diffing major releases

From time to time our pentest team reviews software that we are either using or interested in acquiring. That was the case with Papercut, a multifunction printer/scanner management suite for enterprise printers. The idea behind Papercut is pretty neat, a user can submit a print job to a Papercut printer, and walk to any physical printer they are nearby and release the print job. Users don’t have to select from dozens of printers and hope they get the right one. Pretty neat! It does a lot of other stuff too, but you get the point, it’s for printing :)

Typically when starting an application security assessment I’ll start by searching for previous exploitable vulnerabilities released by other researchers. In the case of Papercut there was only one recent CVE I could find without much detail. CVE-2019–12135 stated “An unspecified vulnerability in the application server in Papercut MF and NG versions 18.3.8 and earlier and versions 19.0.3 and earlier allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via an unspecified vector.”

I don’t like unspecified vulnerabilities! However, this was a good opportunity to do some patch diffing, and general security research on the product. The purpose of this article will be to guide someone in attempting major release patch diffing to find an undisclosed or purposely opaque vulnerability.

Before diving into the patch diffing we also wanted to get an idea of how the application generally behaves.

Typically I’ll look for services and processes related to the target, and what those binaries try to load. Our first finding which was relatively easy to uncover was that the mobility-print.exe process attempts to load ps2pdf.exe, cmd, bat, and vbs from the windows PATH environment variable. As a developer its important to realize that this is something that could potentially be modified, which you have no control over. So loading arbitrary files from an untrusted path is not a good idea.

mobility-print.exe loading files from the PATH variable

After this finding we created a simple POC which spawned calc.exe from a path environment variable. In our case, a SQL server installation which was part of our Papercut install allowed for an unprivileged user to privilege escalate to SYSTEM due to F:\Program Files having the NTFS special permissions to write/append data.

POC bat file that spawns calc.exe
Calc.exe spawned as SYSTEM

First vulnerability down! That was easy, although it’s far from remote code execution… from the perspective of insider risk, a malicious insider with user level access to the print server could take over the print server with this vulnerability. We reported this vulnerability to Papercut and the newest release has this issue patched.

If you’ve done patch diffing of DLLs or binaries before, you know the important thing is to get the most recent version before the patch, and the version immediately after the patch. Typically a tool like BinDiff is used for comparing the patches. Unfortunately, Papercut doesn’t allow us to download a patch for their undisclosed RCE vulnerability, so the best we can do is download the point release before the vulnerability, and the point release with the patch. Unfortunately, that means that there will be a large number of updated files and the patch will be difficult to find. I made an educated guess that the remote code execution vulnerability would be an insecure deserialization vulnerability simply based on the fact that there were a lot of jar files included in the installer. The image below shows a graphical diffing view of the Papercut folder structure. The important thing here is that purple represents files that have been added.

Here we see a lot of class files added that didn’t exist before… with a lot of extraneous data filtered out.

After diffing the point release and seeing that SecureSerializationFilter was added to the codebase, the next step we took was to see where the new class is leveraged (hint it’s during serialization and deserialization of print jobs). With this information we can craft an attack payload against unpatched versions in the form of a print job.

Finally looking at the class path of the server we can see that Apache Commons Collection is included, so a Ysoserial payload should work for achieving RCE. We’ve achieved the goal of understanding the underlying root cause of the vulnerability even though the vendor did not provide any useful information in understanding the issue. But in a perfect world the vendor would have shared this information in the first place!

As a side note Papercut is one of many vendors who leverage third party libraries. MFP software represents an interesting target in that there are typically large numbers of file format parsers involved in translating image file formats and office document file formats into a format that many printers understand. Third party libraries often are leveraged for this and some may not be as vetted or secure when compared to a Microsoft developed library.

Why you DON’T need the OSCP to land a cybersecurity job in 2020

(or any other security certifications for that matter)

Often when I’m approached by individuals trying to get started in infosec I’ll be asked some variant of the question “What certification should I get to land a job in Cybersecurity?” or “Is the OSCP good/bad/hard/worth-it/insert-adjective-here?” Some people get psyched out before they even start, and convince themselves it will be too hard for them (it’s not). As someone who has taken the OSCP and many other exams, I will tell you that you don’t need it. Or any other exam for that matter in order to get a job in infosec. There I said it, go ahead and rescind my CISSP while you still can!

Before I dive into reasons that the OSCP is not needed I'll go further to say that it is one of the best cybersecurity certifications. If that seems counterintuitive then please read on. OSCP is one of the best simply because it is a hands-on course and a hands-on exam. As such it is a great proxy for real-world experience. If you think critically about certification companies for a moment and think about why a certification or certification exists, it should be to create content that can educate or highlight the strength of a potential candidate's skills and expertise. However, oftentimes certifying bodies are rather self-serving or even predatory with their high cost to “maintain” a certification. Certification companies often market themselves as a way to land a job. Spoiler alert, no one cares if you have a CE|H. Offensive Security, however, does not charge maintenance fees, yet again, another win for Offensive Security, and since the exam and labs are hands-on, students can't help but learn something!

While I feel strongly that offensive security does an acceptable job of highlighting applicant skills with a practical hands-on certification, the fact is that the infosec space has changed drastically compared to when I got my certification 7 years ago, and certifications are no longer as relevant as they used to be. For one the bug bounty space has really matured and I’m happy to see so many vendors establishing positive relationships with the security community. There is still a lot of growth left in the bug bounty space and it’s a great potential avenue to highlight your skills.

One example of highlighting skills is the HackerOne hacktivity feed

Your name here!

So instead of highlighting your certifications, you can highlight your real-world accomplishments on platforms like HackerOne. Alternatively, there are some vulnerability acquisition platforms that are private in nature but do allow crediting researchers with the vulnerabilities. Generally, these are top-tier vulnerability acquisition platforms like ZDI. Personally I’d love to hire someone who has been to a PWN2OWN competition and value experience like that much higher than certifications

Other bug bounty programs have private feeds, but you can certainly share your ranking on those platforms if you are under NDA for the specific vulnerabilities you find.

Finally, I believe the role of a certifying body is to follow industry trends and ensure that the course offerings match what the industry is looking for. Again the Offensive Security team does better than most in preparing a student to achieve great things in the security space but certifications are not exactly what the industry is looking for. Thankfully companies will happily tell you what they are really looking for in the “nice to have” section of job descriptions.

Job Description for an offensive role with Cylance
NCC group

Many offensive cybersecurity roles would really like to see CVE’s attributed to an applicant’s name. CVE’s demonstrate real-world impact and the level of skill of the applicant. Similar to bug bounty programs, an applicant is able to demonstrate their security expertise and help to make the world a safer place.

If hunting for CVE’s doesn’t sound appealing another alternative would be demonstrating your software development experience by open sourcing some tool or contributing to an existing open-source security tool. A memorable example was one applicant at a former job wrote a scanner in python that looked for meterpreter specific strings in memory. His CTF team used the script to help defend systems at CCDC events that they competed in. Definitely a cool application of tech to solve a painful problem for CCDC blue teams.

So is the OSCP worthless then? Far from it, I am grateful for my experiences in the labs. I enjoyed the pain so much I went on to take my OSCE and am waiting for an exam opportunity for my OSWE certification. I’d recommend that someone takes the exam if they are looking for some new experiences and hopefully some new knowledge. If someone is looking for a job in infosec and the price of training and the certification is too high, there are now plenty of free ways to demonstrate your experience, or even better, ways to get paid to demonstrate your experience.

Fuzzing for known vulnerabilities with Rode0day pt 2

Improving fuzzer code coverage

This is a follow on post to my first article where we went over setting up the American Fuzzy Lop fuzzer (AFL)written by Michał Zalewski. When we previously left off our fuzzer was generating test cases for the Rode0day beta binary buffalo.c available here. However we quickly found out that the supplied input file didn’t appear to be enough to generate many code paths. Meaning we weren’t testing many new instruction sets or components of the application. A very simple explanation of a code path can be found here.

Unfortunately for us the challenge provided an arbitrary file parser for us to fuzz, in the case of fuzzing something like a pdf parser we would have a large corpus available to us out on the internet to download and start fuzzing with. In the case of fuzzing something like the PDF file format you wouldn’t even need to understand anything about the file format to begin fuzzing!

Yet another setback is that there is no documentation, most standardized file formats follow a spec, such that there will be interoperability between different applications opening the same file. This is why you can read a pdf file in your web browser, adobe reader, foxit reader etc. If you are interested the pdf spec is available here.

While we don’t have the spec for the buffalo file format parser we do have the C source code available, which is the next best thing. I am not an experienced C developer but looking at the source code for a few minutes and a few things become apparent. At a number of lines we can see that there are multiple calls to printf:

Calls to printf everywhere!

Printf can be used in unsafe ways to leak data from the stack, or worse. In this case it doesn’t look immediately exploitable, but our fuzzing will help us determine if that is the case or not.

Use of an unsafe function printf

Here printf is printing the string “file timestamp” then printing an unsigned decimal (unsigned int) head.timestamp. “head timestamp” appears to be part of an element in the data_flow array.

Nevertheless the point of this challenge is to fuzz the binary not reverse engineer it. For the purpose of the challenge we would want to understand what kind of input the program is expecting to parse. While reading the beginning of the source code two things immediately stand out. The format for the file_header is described as well as the file_entry struct

here the file_header and file_entry structs are defined

Then we see that like a lot of file formats the program checks to see if there is a specific file format header or “magic bytes” when beginning to parse the file.

our magic byte checker

here the value in int v829383 is set to 0x4c415641. If the 0x41 looks familiar thats good because that is letter “A” in ASCII. Thus the magic bytes in ASCII is the string “LAVA” so based on this information we can say that the contest organizers didn’t even give us a file format that can be fully parsed by the application! let’s create some valid files!

creating a few POC files
more paths!

Once we point AFL to our corpus directory and start another fuzzing run we immediately see new paths being explored by AFL. In the prior blog post after running AFL for some time there were only 2 paths explored. This would make sense because after examining the source code we discovered that the sample file provided to us would immediately get rejected by the program since it didn’t have the correct magic bytes. So beforehand the only path we explored was the magic byte check in the code, then no other paths were explored.

Diving deeper into the code we can work on writing an input file with a proper file_header and file_entry structs such that we would exercise the normal code paths of the application and not the error handling paths. Below i’ve copied the struct code and added the strings that I think will match what the structs are expecting.

typedef struct {
uint32_t magic; =“AVAL”
uint32_t reserved; = “AAAA”
uint16_t num_recs; = “AA”
uint16_t flags; = “AA”
uint32_t timestamp; “AAAA”
} file_header;
typedef struct {
char bar[16]; = “DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD”
uint32_t type; = “AAAA”
union {
float fdata; "0.0"
uint32_t intdata; "1"
} data; "data"
} file_entry;

based on the struct definitions something like:


should create a file that parses and it does to a certain extent.

our file parses but generates an unknown type error

The above file would be great to add to a sample corpus, using the source code as our guide we can create a number of additional input files to test new code paths. I spent some time working to create additional sample files with quite a bit of success in discovering new paths. Compared with the original post I was able to uncover 127 total code paths in a few hours of fuzzing.

Now we are running a reliable fuzzer that tests a number of code paths

If you’d like some hints on what other input files to provide to the application I’ve included a number of input files here. Be warned there are a number of crashing inputs to the binary so you will have to remove them before AFL will begin the run. Good luck and happy fuzzing!

Fuzzing for known vulnerabilities with Road0Day & LAVA

Fuzzing for known vulnerabilities with Rode0day & LAVA

It might seem strange to want to spend time and resources looking for known vulnerabilities. That is the case with the Rode0day competition in which seeded vulnerabilities are injected into binaries with the tool LAVA. If you stop and think for a moment on the challenges of fuzzing and vulnerability discovery, one of the primary challenges is an inability to know if your fuzzing technique is effective. One might infer that if you find a lot of unique crashes, in different code paths then your fuzzing strategy is effective… or was the code just poorly written? If you find no crashes, or very few, is your fuzzing strategy not working properly? Is the program just handling malformed input well? These questions are difficult to answer and as a result it can be difficult to know if you are wasting resources or if it’s just a matter of time before you’d find a vulnerability.

Enter Large-scale Automated Vulnerability Addition(LAVA) which aims to automate injection of buffer overflow vulnerabilities in an automated way while ensuring that the bugs are security critical, reachable from user input, and plentiful. The presentation is very interesting and I highly recommend watching the full video. TLDR; the LAVA developers injected 2000 flaws in a binary and an open source fuzzer & symbolic execution tool found less than 2% of the bugs! It should however be noted that their were purely academic, and the fuzzing runs were relatively short. With an unsophisticated approach low detection rates are to be expected.

In the Rode0day Competition challenge binaries are released every month. The challenges are available with source code so it’s possible to compile them with binary instrumentation to get started (relatively) quickly. So let’s get started with one of the prior challenges to get a fuzzer setup. For the purposes of the competition, AFL will be our go to fuzzer. I’ll be using an instance in AWS ec2 running ubuntu 18.04 and in this case AFL is available in the apt repo so first run:

$sudo apt-get install afl

once AFL is installed we can grab a target binary from the competition

$tar -zxvf Beta.tar.gz

I chose to start with the beta challenges however you can choose any challenge from the list. Reading the info.yaml file that’s included describes the challenge and the first challenge “buffalo” looks like a good one to start with since it takes one argument from the command line directly.

contents of the info.yaml file

Next we want to compile the target binary for AFL instrumentation, but before we can do that let’s see if it will compile without modifications:

our target binary compiles with warnings

Even though there were warnings the binary does compile and we have the same functionality between our compiled binary and the included binary. We should be ready to start fuzzing with AFL, let’s compile with instrumentation. we can use afl-gcc directly, or modify the Makefile.

[email protected]–31–47–47:~/rode0day/beta/src/1$ afl-gcc buffalo.c -o aflbuffalo
our binary compiles with afl-gcc

Next we can review the included input corpus for our buffalo which in this case, is nowhere near as exciting as say, a corpus of jpegs.

hexdump of our input sample file, looks like a few 0x41’s or A’s and thats it

Our corpus contains only one file which has A’s and not much else, not very exciting…

so we can launch AFL with the command:

afl-fuzz -i ../../test/ -o ./crashes/ ./aflbuffalo @@

where -i is the input directory containing our input files, -o is the output directory to store our crashes ./aflbuffalo is the compiled program to test and @@ simple means append the input files to the command line.

afl running against our instrumented binary.

After letting the fuzzer run for some time with only one input file in AFL we wont end up seeing total paths increase significantly, which means we are not exploring and testing new code paths. Adding just one new file to the input directory resulted in another code path being hit. This points to the overall importance of having a large, but efficient corpus. I’ll have a follow-up blog post about creating a corpus for this challenge binary.

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